Other Duke, UNC, and NC hospital systems require workers to be vaccinated :: WRAL.com

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Other Duke, UNC, and NC hospital systems require workers to be vaccinated :: WRAL.com

— Major hospital systems across North Carolina, including the Duke University Health System based in Chapel Hill, Durham, announced Thursday that all staff and doctors must be vaccinated to continue working there.

The moves come on the heels of the North Carolina Health Care Association’s decision to support mandatory vaccinations for health care workers. The association represents 130 hospitals and health systems statewide.

“Protecting patients, visitors, and healthcare staff from COVID-19 remains of paramount importance. Vaccinating hospital and health system staff against COVID-19 is vital to safely care for patients by protecting them from infection and mitigating the spread of the virus within healthcare facilities and among physicians, patients, their families and friends “.

Duke Health and UNC Health have set a September 21 deadline for employees to get fully vaccinated, and employees will have to show proof of vaccination to their supervisors. Anyone seeking a medical or religious exemption from getting the vaccine must request it by September 7.

Anyone who doesn’t meet the deadline will get a warning, and then, if they haven’t yet been vaccinated, they will be fired, said Dr. Tom Owens, vice president of Duke Health and president of Duke University Hospital.

About a quarter of Duke Health’s more than 22,000 employees have not received the vaccination, a spokeswoman said.

“We are all committed as healthcare professionals to doing no harm – and that’s part of our department. We need to make sure we don’t give COVID to the patients they care for,” Owens said. “We’re doing this for a reason – we didn’t take this decision lightly, but we are concerned about the direction we’re seeing.”

New coronavirus infections have surged in North Carolina in the past two weeks, driven by the highly contagious Delta type of virus.

Another 1,800 cases were reported statewide Thursday, the highest single-day total since May 7. The seven-day average of 1,154 cases per day over the past week is double what it was just nine days ago.

More than 750 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina, with about a quarter of them in intensive care.

Owens said hospital systems view the vaccine mandate as a “call to action” that officials hope will spur more North Carolina residents to get vaccinated. Statewide, only 57 percent of adults age 18 or older have been fully vaccinated, while 3 percent have received a single dose of the vaccine.

“We hope that by moving forward, members of the community will view this measure as evidence that they should also move forward to protect themselves and those they care about,” he said. “We, in fact, need more members of our communities to move forward and vaccinate.”

Other hospital systems that mandate vaccinations for employees include Cone Health, based in Greensboro, Novant Health, based in Winston-Salem, and Atrium Health, based in Charlotte.

WakeMed officials said they plan to require employees to be vaccinated as well, but they haven’t set a deadline yet.

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